Darlington refurbishment approval upheld

27 November 2014

Canada's Federal Court has dismissed a lawsuit challenging regulatory decisions on the environmental assessment of the planned refurbishment and continued operation of the four-unit Darlington nuclear power plant.  

Darlington reactor face - 460  
The reactor mock-up in the Darlington Energy Complex (Image: OPG)  

A group of four environmental organisations - Greenpeace Canada, the Canadian Environmental Law Association, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper and Northwatch – had sought a judicial review of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) assessment of the environmental implications of the work. They alleged that the regulators had not carried out their assessment in accordance with federal regulations, and had failed to consider aspects including potential effects on Lake Ontario's fisheries and the impact of unpredictable major accidents.

The Court found that the two regulators had made no errors in the methods they had used in deciding that the project, with its associated mitigation steps, was not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects. The ruling also noted that the regulators had behaved in a reasonable manner in making their assessments. "The assertion that a regulatory authority must consider any accident which may possibly occur is unsustainable in reality and law," the ruling notes.

Greenpeace energy analyst Shawn-Patrick Stensil said in a statement that he was "disappointed" with the ruling. The groups are currently reviewing the judgment, and have not yet decided whether to appeal.

Ontario Power Generation's (OPG) plans for the major refurbishment project, due to commence in 2016, have been over six years in the making. The project will involve the replacement core reactor components to enable the plant's four Candu units, all of which started operations in the early 1990s, to continue in service for another 30 years. Each unit will be taken out of service for about three years for the replacement of fuel channels, feeder pipes, calandria tubes and end fittings and the rehabilitation of steam generators, turbine generators and fuel handing equipment. System System improvements and plant upgrades will ensure the plant meets current regulatory requirements.

In preparation for the work, OPG has constructed an on-site training facility including a full-scale replica of a Darlington reactor vault and mock-ups of other reactor sections. The replica reactor is based on unit 2, which will be the first of the Darlington units to be refurbished. The training facility will allow staff to practice and perfect techniques using actual tools and wearing protective equipment before they begin work inside the station, while the mock-ups and replica reactor will also be used for tool performance testing.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News